Brain fart

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A brain fart (may be jocularly derived from "brainstorm")[1] is slang for a special kind of abnormal brain activity which results in human error while performing a repetitive task,[2][3] or more generally denoting a degree of mental laxity or any task-related forgetfulness, such as forgetting how to hold a fork. Tom Eichele, a neuroscientist at the University of Bergen in Norway, was part of an international team of researchers who identified activity detectable in brain scans up to 30 seconds before a mistake, which could be referred to as a brain fart, occurs. The researchers suspect the abnormal behavior is the result of the brain attempting to save effort on a task by entering a more restful state. The scientists detailed their findings on 21 April 2008 online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientific term they gave the phenomenon is "maladaptive brain activity change".[4]

The term is typically employed in the United States[5] to indicate a regrettable and poorly thought out choice of action. According to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier a brain fart occurs when one "momentarily loses his sense of logic…and does something 'dumb'."[6]

A further clarification comes from investigative journalist Louie Pierson, who proffers that while accidents are preventable, "brain farts are unpredictable, unpreventable and universal", and advances the theory that Mother Nature had "added the unfathomable minor irritant of the brain fart as a failsafe backup."[7]

The derivation of the term may be related to the term "brain infarction"; however, a more likely etiology is the direct comparison of the episode of forgetfulness escaping one's brain without check to the accidental production of flatus.

Another use[edit]

The term may also be used to inelegantly refer to a situation in which one speaks out of turn.[8] Lexicologists demur, preferring the definition of "losing one's train of thought".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dalzell, Tom (2008). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. New York: Routledge. p. 88. ISBN 0-203-96211-7. 
  2. ^ "Scientists decode brain farts: Up to 30 seconds before your goof, the brain starts acting abnormally". MSNBC. 2008-04-21. 
  3. ^ Choi, Charles Q. (2008-04-21). "Mind-Reading Hat Could Prevent Brain Farts". 
  4. ^ Eichele, Tom; et al. (April 21, 2008). "Prediction of human errors by maladaptive changes in event-related brain networks". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences) 105 (16): 6173–8. doi:10.1073/pnas.0708965105. PMID 18427123. 
  5. ^ Lenerd, Kilian. "Start-ups wollen nicht behindert werden!", Die Welt, 6 September 2000
  6. ^ Zeisberger, Mike. "Gauthier claims spear was incidental contact", Toronto Sun, April 28, 2006
  7. ^ Pierson, Louie. "Even animals have moments of absent mindedness", Sun Herald 2003-07-23.
  8. ^ Jansen, Erin (2002). Netlingo. Ojai.: NetLingo. p. 67. ISBN 0-9706396-7-8. 
  9. ^ Monson. Gordon. "From BYU to Boston College, Slang Sets a..." Salt Lake Tribune October 31, 1993

Further reading[edit]

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